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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Verb-Initial Clauses in Ancient Greek Prose: A Discourse-Pragmatic Study

  • Author(s): Recht, Tom
  • Advisor(s): Garrett, Andrew J
  • et al.

Word order in Ancient Greek, a ‘free word order’ or discourse-configurational language, depends

largely on pragmatic and information-structural factors, but the precise nature of these factors is

still a matter of some controversy (Dik 1995, Matić 2003). In this dissertation, I examine the set

of constructions in which a verb appears in first position in its clause, and consider the conditions

under which such constructions appear and the roles they play in structuring Greek discourse. I

distinguish between topical and focal initial verbs, and show that the former class (which are the

main concern of the study) in fact occur as part of larger units definable in terms of both prosody

and pragmatics. The function of such units, I argue, is to mark specific kinds of transitions between

the implicit questions that structure discourse (Questions Under Discussion [QUDs], Roberts

1996). I describe and categorize the types of QUD transitions marked by verb-initial units in a

corpus of five fifth-and fourth-century Greek prose authors, and relate these to transitions marked

by other classes of constructions, including a newly identified contrastive-topic construction. My

account improves on preceding models by unifying a number of phenomena previously treated as

disparate. It also represents the first large-scale application of the QUD model to real discourse.

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